My garden is requiring a lot of my attention lately, and that’s fine with me. Spring clean-up can either be a chore or a joy, depending on my attitude. This year, I’m finding most of the tasks to be a joyful process.
One task I’m enjoying is pruning the hydrangeas, roses, and a few other shrubs. I’m not talking about “trimming the bushes.” My husband takes on the latter task with a hedge trimmer that makes flat surfaces along the rows to form neat rectangles. He was surprised to find out all shrubbery shouldn’t be shaped into boxes.
Although I’m not ordinarily a detail person, I enjoy looking for dead or dying branches and snipping them out. I like looking at the plant’s natural growth pattern and making the most of its God-given shape. Reluctantly, I sometimes crop out healthy branches that cause the bush to be unshapely.
The rose branches that remain after the thinning can be re-trained along the support trellis, making a more beautiful display when they bloom.
Pruning can be a delicate process, requiring surgical-like precision, but it is always a careful, thoughtful one. Writers can identify with this when editing unnecessary words from manuscripts.
Some shrubs need a severe cut-back to rejuvenate them. It’s a scary procedure because I don’t want to kill the plant. Nevertheless, they usually come back much healthier because of it.
I’m reminded of the parable Jesus told about the landowner who was disgusted with a fig tree that had been barren for three years. He told his gardener to get rid of it. The wise gardener asked for one more year, saying he could dig around it and fertilize it to see if it might finally produce fruit. If not, then he would chop it down for the owner. (Luke 13:6-9)
Jesus said, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2 ESV)
Despite how that sounds, our Gardener is merciful, forgiving, and does what is best for us. Like pruning a vine or shrub, the Lord prunes his children of deadwood and unnecessary things in our lives that sap our strength, preventing us from being productive for Him. Every branch can’t be salvaged. It is one of the ways he disciplines us.
Remember, discipline doesn’t have to mean punishment. It is for teaching or training like the roses are trained to grow along a trellis.
I have gone through many times when I felt like He was doing spiritual surgery to help me get rid of things in my life that were unhealthy and draining my energy in unproductive ways. Yes, it can be painful, but after letting go, the healing takes place. It has freed me from bearing burdens I don’t need to carry. I’m grateful for the result because I know the Lord loves me and is only for my good. And He is there as my support, my trellis.
Our Lord went on to say in verses 4 and 5: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Finally, our lives become one with Him. We are in Him, and His Spirit is in us. That’s where we get our strength, energy, creativity, and ability to live fruitful lives. We are a branch on the vine, intertwined with other branches whose life comes from the same source. We may endure a time of pruning not only for ourselves but for the sake of the whole plant.
Lighten our load, Lord. Help us endure our pruning by Your grace. Trim us so that we will bear much fruit for You in Your kingdom.